A UN official says Iran, Russia and Turkey have assured that they would do their utmost to avoid a battle for the recapture of Idlib in northwestern Syria, which is being held by foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists.
UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland hoped during a meeting of the Syria humanitarian task force on Thursday that diplomats and military envoys could reach a deal to avoid what he called a “bloodbath.”
“I was heartened to hear that both the Russian Federation, Turkey, Iran – the ‘Astana Three’ – say that they will do their utmost to avoid war in and for the civilians of Idlib,” he said.
“And we urged those Westerners and [Persian] Gulf countries who have influence on the armed oppositions groups to do more to avoid these armed groups to continue reckless behavior; violent behavior; behavior that is totally contrary to humanitarian work and principles in many of the areas.”
Iran, Turkey and Russia are the guarantors of a countrywide ceasefire in Syria. The three have been mediating a peace process since January 2016 among Syria’s warring sides in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Idlib, on the Turkish border, is one of the last major militant strongholds in Syria. Turkey has set up a series of observation posts in Idlib as part of the deal to reduce fighting between militants and the Syrian government in de-escalation zones.
Egeland, however, said that the world body was making preparations for a battle and would ask Turkey to keep its borders open to allow civilians to flee if the need arose.
“There is of course only one way to escape this if you are not going to cross frontline than into government-controlled area, and that would be to Turkey,” he said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last month said that government forces had turned their focus to Idlib, noting that liberation of the northwestern province was one of the military’s priorities.
The province holds the largest concentration of Takfiri terrorists, who have fled there from ongoing liberation operations by the country and its allies.
In recent weeks, Syria’s government forces have recaptured militant strongholds in the southwest. They have retaken most of the southern province of Dara’a in an offensive that began in June.
In a bid to minimize civilian casualties, both Damascus and Moscow have been initiating talks with militants to make them hand back the areas they control to the government without fighting.